4 Concepts to Grasp in Copyright and Content Marketing

by Craig Fitzgerald

IMN has always pro­vid­ed deal­ers with a pow­er­ful tool for com­mu­ni­cat­ing with cus­tomers and prospects. Cus­tomers that use Loy­al­ty Dri­ver or social media have an incred­i­bly pow­er­ful means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion at their fin­ger­tips. The issue, how­ev­er, is pop­u­lat­ing those tools with mean­ing­ful, effec­tive con­tent.

IMN pro­vides rel­e­vant, mean­ing­ful and time­ly con­tent, but we also encour­age our clients to add con­tent of their own to make their con­tent mar­ket­ing unique to their loca­tion. The nat­ur­al incli­na­tion is to sim­ply pass along con­tent found in a web search, but the legal impli­ca­tions of doing so can be cost­ly, espe­cial­ly in a land­scape where con­tent providers are look­ing to max­i­mize rev­enue from their con­tent.

1. What is pla­gia­rism?

  • to steal and pass off the ideas or words of anoth­er as one’s own
  • to use another’s pro­duc­tion with­out cred­it­ing the source
  • to com­mit lit­er­ary theft
  • to present as new and orig­i­nal an idea or prod­uct derived from an exist­ing source

Accord­ing to US Copy­right Law, the expres­sion of orig­i­nal ideas is con­sid­ered “intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty,” and is there­fore pro­tect­ed by US copy­right law. Almost all forms of expres­sion fall under copy­right pro­tec­tion, as long as they are record­ed in some way.

Almost all cas­es of pla­gia­rism can be avoid­ed, how­ev­er, by cit­ing a source. Acknowl­edge­ment that cer­tain mate­r­i­al has been bor­rowed, and then pro­vid­ing the audi­ence with the infor­ma­tion nec­es­sary to find that source, is gen­er­al­ly con­sid­ered enough to pre­vent pla­gia­rism.

At one time, work was only pro­tect­ed if it includ­ed the copy­right sym­bol ( © ), but accord­ing to laws enact­ed in 1989, works are copy­right­ed regard­less of the symbol’s pres­ence.

As long as mate­r­i­al can be proven to be sub­stan­tial­ly sim­i­lar to the orig­i­nal, it may be con­sid­ered to be a vio­la­tion of the Copy­right Act.

2. What is “Fair Use?”

The US Gov­ern­ment has estab­lished rough guide­lines for deter­min­ing the nature and amount of mate­ri­als that may be uti­lized with­out con­sent. Fair Use laws are com­plex and vague, and for the pur­pos­es of the mate­r­i­al in a con­tent mar­ket­ing pro­gram, should nev­er be con­sid­ered as ade­quate pro­tec­tion under the law.

3. What’s in the Pub­lic Domain?

“Pub­lic Domain” cov­ers works that were nev­er pro­vid­ed copy­right pro­tec­tion, or that the copy­right pro­tec­tion has run out on. For the pur­pos­es of what we’re doing, most of our clients won’t be using infor­ma­tion from the pub­lic domain. Works pub­lished after 1978 are placed in pub­lic domain after the life­time of the author, plus 70 years.

4. What about Images, Video, Sound Files, etc?

Images and any oth­er works are sim­i­lar­ly sub­ject to copy­right. Images used in anoth­er medi­um need to be licensed direct­ly from the copy­right hold­er.

Com­pa­nies that pro­duce con­tent – edi­to­r­i­al, video, sound files and images – are becom­ing ever-more sophis­ti­cat­ed in find­ing cas­es of improp­er use of their copy­right­ed mate­r­i­al.

Com­pa­nies like Get­ty Images, for exam­ple, have sophis­ti­cat­ed means of search­ing for and find­ing their images, and inves­ti­gat­ing whether your com­pa­ny has prop­er license to use them. Do a Google search for “Get­ty Image demand let­ter” and you’ll learn that since the ear­ly 2000s, thou­sands of busi­ness­es across the coun­try have received demand let­ters from Get­ty Image’s legal depart­ment con­tain­ing set­tle­ment demands in the thou­sands of dol­lars. If your busi­ness uses an image that doesn’t belong to you, you can eas­i­ly be the sub­ject of a set­tle­ment that can­cels out many of the ben­e­fits of your con­tent mar­ket­ing pro­gram.

The bot­tom line is that to tru­ly pro­tect your­self, you should have writ­ten per­mis­sion to use any con­tent you use on your web­site, ecom­mu­ni­ca­tions or social media plat­forms.

It’s a best prac­tice for avoid­ing cost­ly legal action in the future.

Craig Fitzger­ald is Edi­to­r­i­al Direc­tor of IMN



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